EDM – Past and Present
Electronic dance music, sometimes called electronic dance music, party music, or just dance, is an expansive collection of percussive, electronic music styles created mostly for clubs, raves, and night events. It’s not dissimilar to music played on the radio except the music is heard in a wide variety of settings. These electronic dance music sets are often played in clubs and other similar venues by DJs, live music acts, as well as independent artists and DJs. Some electronic dance music is independent in the sense that it was influenced by popular music and has its own unique sound.
House music is one of the most popular electronic dance music genres. It’s widely identified with hip-hop and rap music genres but there is also a sub-genre labeled “house music” which showcases bass, drums, and other percussion instruments. Similar to techno, house music tends to have a slow tempo and usually four-on-the-floor melodies. While the artists who perform with this kind of music are as varied as the music itself, there are some who stand out from the rest. Disclosure is one artist whose music and style have become well known worldwide.
The earliest form of electronic dance music was closely related to the sound of drum machines and the earliest forms of “dance music” were made using a mixture of synthesizers, hardware synthesizers, as well as other sound generating devices. The quality of sound produced by early electronic dance music was poor and it relied heavily on drums and strong bass. This early form of dance music bore little resemblance to future music trends like “house music.”
One of the first big names in electronic dance music was House music. Although it started out as an acronym for “breaks,” which meant musical snippets rather than actual beats, House music quickly changed into a very rigid form that began with a drum beat and became more refined over the years. “EDM,” short for electro electronic dance music, took its shape during the early 1990s when “house music” began to lose steam. The term was originally used to distinguish between old school “disco” music and what many believed to be the “new school” kind of electronic dance music. When “EDM” began to gain in popularity, it began to describe a new style of music.
The beat is generally four to the floor with a heavy presence of drums and a low minimum tempo. While the initial sound effects were not as heavy or as rhythmic as “break trance,” the original sound was still very strong and crisp. A common practice in early 90s was to perform live drum solos in clubs. By the mid-90s, however, the electronic dance music world had begun to move away from this sound and began to focus on other elements like “minimalism.”
One of the first elements to be integrated into “EDM” was the drum machine. While the traditional style of electronic dance music featured only a piano or a keyboard, a drum machine was added as an option to give a fuller sound. Drum machines are essentially electronic instruments that are run by foot with a variety of sounds built in. Some have sounds that are pre-recorded while others come right out of your computer. These devices gave a fuller sound effect that could be missing from house music.
Another important trend that began to happen in the early 90s was the use of samples. Sampling from a wide array of sources gave EDM a more eclectic feel that was a noticeable departure from traditional disco. While the producers of the early electronic dance music made their music based on their personal preferences, today’s more eclectic artists like Diplo utilize samples from a plethora of places. Many popular producers of today lay large portions of their sample libraries directly onto their electronic dance music recordings. The sampling process is generally up-tempo and considered to be a signature sound of many modern DJ songs.
Finally, the use of “disco break” chanteuses became commonplace in most electronic dance music. This is where the band or vocalist would sing a brief section of the song (known as a “break”) before the rest of the song came together. Break chanteuses are very popular in many forms of EDM. They generally occur during “antelope” or “light” music sections. As a dance genre, break dancing is fairly new but it is certain to grow in popularity in the coming years.